A Christmas Cozy Review

by Jackie Houchin

Here’s a new cozy mystery, just in time for Christmas. Have you ever been to a “Santa’s Village” complete with a Misses and Mister Claus?  T. C. Wescott’s new book takes you there and makes you want to stay for the festivities, food and fun.

Slay Bells 7

“Slay Bells is a cozy mystery that is indeed “cozy.” Imagine the aromas of cinnamon cookies, tarts, cakes and puddings baking, fireplaces glowing, villagers bundled in furs and mukluks, while powdery snow gently covers the famous hamlet.

Imagine mistletoe (a curious part of the mystery) and holly,  twinkling lanterns (a beautiful ancient tradition there) and carols at the annual Christmas Festival.  This is the setting for T.C. Wescott’s first Christmas Village mystery.

Two ladies feature in this tale. Super sleuth and much beloved is Maribel Claus, wife of the famous mister Claus who is conspicuous by his absence, being busy with his shop workers preparing for the “big night.” Meanwhile Maribel aids the fumbling Sheriff Fell in solving crimes in Christmas Village.

Rose Willoughby is her elderly friend, fellow goody-baker, and sometimes assistant in crime solving (when she can be trusted to keep secrets.)  Rose owns Plum Cottage, a quaint Bed & Breakfast where at present; a traveling troupe of circus performers – magician, juggler, acrobat, fortuneteller, strong man, grumpy manager and assistant – is lodging.

When one of them is murdered in a most peculiar way – with a small silver bell left on his chest – the list of capable suspects is long. Each performer has a special ability that could almost have accomplished the “impossible” act.  But which one? And mostly, how?

Wescott keeps the reader in suspense as first one then another is considered by Maribel and Sheriff Fell. When a second more curious murder occurs (again a bell is left on the body), there are even rumors of a legendary flying monster doing the killing.

While the village struggles to carry on with the festivities, and the performers huddle in fear wondering who will be the next to die, Maribel works to pry out and then trap the killer.

Slay Bells is a delightfully perplexing mystery. It will take a most astute armchair detective to discover HOW the murders are done before the author reveals the very believable solution!

Readers will love the atmosphere and the characters Wescott has created. The humorous superstitions, lovely holiday traditions, and the vague allusions to the famous mister all add to the fun of the story. And so is trying to beat Maribel in finding the “who” and “how.”  Betcha you can’t!

Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher for review

 

Jackie Houchin Went South

In June, 2012 we sold our horse ranch in Sun Valley, packed up our four cats, and moved to South Orange County. We’ve never looked back or regretted our escape from LA County, not even once. (Apologies to those of you still living there.)
My hair is gray now. Such freedom! No more pale roots and horrible dye jobs. Moving to a new community was the time to do it too. 
Since we moved, I’ve been to Africa (Malawi) twice with short-term mission teams from our new church. I hope to go again this spring. I wrote a dozen journal posts on my website about that first trip.
Unfortunately, six months later my website was hacked beyond repair and I took it down permanently. It was a traumatic experience; a lot of publishing history gone in a flash.  I eventually realized it was time to let it go and move on.
I’m thankful for the journalism experience I got writing for newspapers in LA, and while I’ve posted a few articles on the Mission Viejo Patch and considered a story for the OC Register, I think I’ve pitched my last newspaper.
So, you ask, what are you doing in the WRITERS in Residence blog?  Because I’m still writing! 
I have two other blogs. “Here’s How it Happened” is a mini-website, with a variety of articles. Check out the recipe for homemade Snickers. Yum!  “Morning Meditations” is a more serious journal blog of my early morning quiet times in the Bible and prayer.
I do proof-reading and copy-editing, which is SO appropriate for a perfectionist nit-picker like me!  I’ve worked on a couple mystery book manuscripts, a doctorate thesis, a “how-to” craft manual, and an African children’s novel translated from Dutch.  And I still review books for Mystery Scene Magazine!  
Look for my future posts on WinR about “The Agonies of Book Reviewing: A 12-step plan” “How Lillian Jackson Braun’s ‘Cat Who’s’ Inspire Me” and “Start Writing Cereals…er…Serials!”